I was very impressed at the international terminal in Port Moresby at first, it was prestigious compared to the Domestic terminals, and the security checks made me so nervous I could’ve easily been apprehended for sweating in a highly air-conditioned area. I realized when I got to Brisbane airport my home’s Jacksons International Airport had “big brothers”. Anyway, I got on the plane to fly to Brisbane, now during the 2-3 hours of flying I was too scared to walk to the lavatory and I couldn’t be rude to the hostess so I had to eat and drink everything that was offered to me. By the time I arrived in Brisbane the only thing I could think of was where I could find a toilet.
But of course, we had to wait for first class to get off, then the front rows, some of them had to remove luggage from overhead lockers. We finally got off and after relieving myself I got to border security. We were given the orange cards to fill out in the plane and I had to be entirely honest so I may have put a cross in one of the “yes” box that sent me straight to quarantine. All of a sudden I had a full bladder again. The guy there had a huge dog almost 3-quarters my size, I was scared as ever. I remembered back home whenever we were passing a house with a dog, my cousins and I always reminded ourselves not to look the dog in the eye and not to be scared because dogs could smell fear. This thought was not helpful at all. Thankfully my fear was not illegal enough to score me a dog bite so I got past and was received by Brian Vial and his partner Andrea Stevenson (my sponsors for the trip) at the arrivals.
I learned a whole lot of new things and gaped at almost everything from high rises to flyovers to bridges. I was particularly amazed at the fact that there were road links to all parts of Australia whereas back home there were a few main highways but they didn’t link all parts of PNG. Another thing was how flat Australia was. Back home, you couldn’t move a kilometre without seeing or climbing a mountain or hill at least, but in Australia, you could leave a car without handbrake and it would stay parked.
I found a few things different like the dress code, some funny like how avocado was eaten out of a container and how we had to bring our drinks or food sometimes to a party even though we were invited. I familiarized myself with the Australian accent and the ways in which certain things were said and done. I did have a bit of difficulty understanding people at times though, and I got homesick and stressed because I was not used to speaking English full-time. We usually use a bit of both, English and pidgin, so whenever we confused English, pidgin helped out and vice versa. I also discovered that not everyone was Christian and that half-naked people at the beach was a normal sight.
But what saddened me the most, something I could hardly accept probably owing to the fact that I grew up in a lifestyle that was three-quarters custom-oriented, was the fact that families in Australia don’t have as strong a ties as the ones we have in PNG. For example, I could hardly live too far away from my grandparents to leave them even lifting stuff by themselves, let alone think about putting them in a home for other people to take care of them. This was very different, but then I realized that Australians would find aspects of my culture unacceptable as I would find some of theirs. I realized how small my little town was, how limited my view of the world was and how curled up I was on the big island—yes island. My home, as I came to accept, was indeed an ISLAND compared to the rest of the world. Things were done differently everywhere and I had to start cultivating an open mind.
When I left in January 2016, I knew I wanted to visit Australia again, and so I did. I promised myself I would be ‘ready’ this time. I glided through security checkpoints, used lavatories as much as I needed (sometimes only just to take ‘selfies’ in the mirrors), had no trouble with quarantine and had a wonderful time interacting and meeting old as well as new friends. Most of the friends I met were Brian and Andrea’s friends which means they were aged folks but I was never bored, as in order to become wise I had to keep company with the wise.
On my second visit I travelled with a friend, Vivian Kiyo. We both had an exciting time visiting Melbourne, meeting friends, visiting Brian’s daughter Robyn and his granddaughters Evelyn and Claire in Bendigo, we also visited Brian’s son Leigh and his wife Sue with their two boys Digby and Rory in Swan Hill, and we managed to find our way through the Southern Cross Station and back to Benalla. I thought finding our way home was the exciting part because it tested our skills of reading tickets and signs and it also gave us time to sight see the streets of Melbourne a bit without getting lost.
It was indeed a great experience for me and I am truly grateful towards the Leigh Grant Vial scholarship that sponsored my years 11 and 12 at boarding school in Goroka and also Brian and Andrea doing the unthinkable of bringing two Papua New Guinean girls with no exposure whatsoever of the world to Australia not once but twice and giving us experiences of a lifetime. These experiences have added values beyond words to our lives and have broadened so much of our understanding.
I am currently in Lihir, an island in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea doing my industrial training with New Crest Gold Mine. I will be doing my final year this year at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology in Lae, Morobe Province and will be graduating next year (if all goes well). I didn’t leave Melbourne with a heavy heart, I know I want to return and hopefully this time with a degree and two visits of experience."